TTM associates Article
Managers need good influencing skills, particularly in their interpersonal relationships at work. Recent changes in the work environment such as internal stratification have made organisational influencing skills an essential addition to the successful manager’s tool kit.
Furthermore, organisations have become flatter; management must now work more closely with colleagues and counterparts from other departments of the organisation as well as in other organisations. Even for managers who are working in a traditional hierarchy, lateral influencing will be an important part of the job. The proliferation of lateral and diagonal relationships reflects the pressure on managers to become increasingly proactive.
TTM associates’ provides the Top 5 Skills that can achieve positive influence across an organisation.
1.Choosing the right influencing strategy
Managers are often looking for an influencing strategy so their agendas get approved. A helpful model for selecting a strategy is the “Push/Build” continuum by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (image below).
Using the wrong strategy in the wrong moment can lead to undesirable outcomes. The directive, “push” techniques are used in a position of strength and the participative “build” techniques are used when there is the need to increase leverage in a more ambiguous situation. The keywords for the directive strategy style are concise, relevant and confident. A typical example of a successful directive approach is a well-prepared presentation. The danger of excessive “push” is that it may provoke active or passive resistance from other parties. Also, excessive “push” in reports usually results in the reader switching off and putting the report aside. On the other hand, if you use “build” when “push” is necessary it will lead to loss of credibility and be a waste of time.
Coalition building is the process by which individuals and organisations come together to form temporary alliances or partnerships of groups to achieve a common purpose or to engage in a joint activity. There are 6 key stages in coalition building otherwise known as the SPLASH Model acronym.
Coalition building is a primary mechanism through which disempowered parties can develop their power base and thereby better defend their interests. Peter Block suggests in his book ‘The Empowered Manager’ to place colleagues in a number of different categories based on criteria of trust and agreement, resulting in 5 types: Allies, Constructive Opponents, Fence Sitters, Facades and Enemies.
3.Maintaining an effective network
Networking is a work-related activity based on mutual help. If you exploit a network, you will eventually lose it. Therefore, networking requires an investment of time, effort and work. Win Nystrom of PCM Europe discusses networking as ‘SCOR: the Strategic Cultivation of Relationships!’ . According to the figure below, we need to take a step back and review the effectiveness of a network, in order to spot any gaps and redundancies.
The organisational network will include short-term contacts, which can help over the next months and long-term contacts that can help over the next few years and beyond. Similarly, it will include organisational contacts, who can help you achieve your goals and the mission of the organisation, and personal contacts, who you trust and count on their emotional support.
According to Wayne Baker of the University of Michigan: “The world has changed in such a way that no-one knows enough about his or her profession anymore, so he or she has to draw upon information, knowledge and resources that exist in other people’s heads. One of the biggest lessons that people need to unlearn when they enter the world of business is that success is an individual matter.”
Resistance is a stress response, so typically it is a behaviour which is different from the person’s norm. For example, a quiet person suddenly becomes very angry or a social person turns withdrawn. People can signal their resistance and discomfort in a variety of ways. It is easier to spot resistance if you really know the person in question. The more your colleagues trusts you, the more they are likely to disclose what they are feeling and thinking. Unfortunately, if you don’t know your colleagues well, their resistance is harder to be identified and explored. If you are not both persistent and sensitive, your colleagues will succeed in deflecting and distracting you and, as a result, you will not be able to achieve your goals.
When we feel a sense of danger or attack, physical signals in the body are relayed to the brain via the brain stem. The limbic system, which controls emotional responses, is stimulated and is where we feel emotions such as fear and anger. The cerebral cortex, in particular the frontal lobes of the brain, are necessary for us to make sense of our emotional reactions and to choose an appropriate response to aggression or danger. Unfortunately, the limbic system reacts 80,000 times faster than the cerebral cortex, making it very difficult in such situations to think rationally. Hence, human beings tend to react like reptiles when attacked.
They resort to the three instinctive responses: Fight-Flight-Freeze
These reactions lead to aggressive or passive behaviour towards the person that we consider a persecutor. Sequentially, this leads to us being dominated by the other person or getting into a useless fight that provokes more reptile behaviour.
Assertive individuals are able to avoid these instinctive reactions and choose a more effective response that will lead to conflict resolution. The key in avoiding the reptile response is to pause before reacting and to use your commination skills to choose an appropriate response. In others a response that portrays an assertive, controlled person, and does not give message of passivity or aggression.
Both an art and a key business asset influence are essential in all aspects of life. The ‘old school mentality’ of ‘you do your job and I do mine’, is fast disappearing in the current competitive environment. Moreover, managers under pressure to ‘do more with less’. They feel they lack the time for networking and stakeholder management. A key skill relevant to leaders at all levels is the ability to positively influence people in such a way that others follow and act willingly, as opposed to complying because of the authority factor. The role to influence others in a significant way requires employing people of the same skills. It is not complicated but takes mindfulness and careful thought, particularly when under stress and pressure.
Read more about influencing without authority & political intelligence in our behavioural leadership book, and how TTM associates can help you develop the art of influencing strategies, networking, and stakeholder’s management.